Anjimile on plugging in to his community
In a classic chicken-before-the-egg story, Anjimile has many reasons to make powerful music. Is it because he grew up in a family with “big family band energy?” Or that his ear is naturally drawn to melodies? Is it because of a struggle with addiction?
For Anjimile, Boston’s up-and-coming transgender indie artist, the music comes from within: a hearty stew of all his experiences, good and bad.
In his song “Maker,” he sings, “I'm not just a boy I'm a man / I'm not just a man I'm a God / I'm not just a God I'm a maker.” But for Anjimile, he’s not only a maker of music, but a maker of a new life, one birthed out of reflection and pain.
Born and raised in Texas, he was surrounded by music: his older sisters in choir, a father that liked to sing, a brother who is now a music producer. His family has encouraged and supported the path of music, sending Anjimile off to study at Northeastern.
Anjimile is aware of the class privilege that exists in the ability to make and produce music. “I was born into a place where I have that access,” he said. “And it’s imperative that I use any platform I have to note that any position of “power” was granted to me institutionally and has allowed me to connect as a queer, black, trans artist.” This self-awareness, as well as Anjimile’s passion for social justice and honesty, reverberate in his music.
However, the start of his music career was brittle. Anjimile wanted center stage but didn’t spend the time learning from the vibrant music community around him. “I wasn’t going to see acts, I wanted to be the act,” he said.
There’s angst and musical ambition, sure, and then there’s what Anjimile was experiencing at that time: anxiety, severe mental health fragility, and alcohol abuse. He funneled that into music, releasing an EP and his first full-length LP to Bandcamp. Some songs are lighthearted, while others reveal an inner hurt: “I'm gonna chew it up, swallow it whole / I want the earth inside my soul.”
In the middle of his undergraduate years at Northeastern, Anjimile found himself boarding a plane to Florida with only his acoustic guitar and a trash bag full of clothes. He spent two years in treatment for alcohol abuse, reckoning with therapy. For years, music was Anjimile’s therapy; with actual treatment available now, music gradually became an outlet for expression rather than an inlet for emotional pain.
Things turned around in 2017, Anjimile started hormone therapy and his voice dropped. He moved to Roxbury, providing a newfound sense of community. Rather than just looking for center stage, Anjimile now proudly and actively cares about his community, finding comfort in more than just the music around him.
That same year, he met Justine (from Photocomfort), who has become not only a music collaborator and part of the Anjimile team, but also a close friend. Alongside Justine and Gabe Goodman, his de-facto manager/producer/co-engineer, Anjimile has a solid support system both professionally and emotionally. The three of them recently spent a weekend at a lake house in New Hampshire recording Anjimile’s next album.
The new album focuses on Anjimile’s trans identity and how it affects his mental and emotional state. With eight out of ten recorded in a mindful state in nature, the music will likely also reflect states of healing and self-discovery. “These are sensitive, intimate songs,” he said. “But I trust Justine and Gabe. I trust that they’ll honor and respect the songs.”
Anjimile’s songwriting process revolves around inspiration and a strong grasp of his senses. “Sometimes,” he said, “songs come out of me like a sneeze.” Gravitating towards melodies, songs start with the tune, finding their way onto Anjimile’s phone as voice memos. Lyrics come next. But the whole exercise can feel spiritual, bringing Anjimile outside of himself and, eventually, into the ears of his listeners.
As Anjimile spends more time on mindfulness and taking care of himself, his Boston roots continue to dig in. Anjimile received a solid arts grant from the City of Boston to make music; he also just got a job teaching in an after-school music program. This grounding has seemingly set Anjimile free: free to connect with the community around him, free to be himself, and free to make the music that has been a long time coming.